Agriculture | Sustainability | Ecotrope

In Chicago: Urban Farm Taps Brewery To Fuel Aquaponics

Ecotrope | April 23, 2012 9:01 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 3:44 p.m.

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Several companies and volunteers in Chicago are turning a former meat-packing plant into a vertical urban farm that combines aquaponics with kombucha tea production, beer brewing, biogas energy, and a kitchen that serves up the end result with net-zero waste.

Oh, this story is so right up my alley. Several companies and volunteers in Chicago (my home town!) are turning a former meat-packing plant into a vertical urban farm that combines aquaponics (a super-efficient plant-and-fish-growing system) with kombucha tea production, beer brewing, biogas energy, and a kitchen that serves up the end result with net-zero waste.

As you can see in the video below, each part of the operation complements another. But my favorite part is that the barley leftover from the beer-brewing will be used to feed tilapia in the aquaponics system.

When I talked with the aquaponics geeks at Portland Purple Water, they explained the synergy that allows plants to feed off fish waste while filtering the water in the fish tank. The system doesn’t require soil or fertile land, but it does use energy and it usually does not provide food for the fish. At “The Plant” in Chicago, an anaerobic digester makes energy from waste to fuel the entire operation, and the brewery provides the food for the fish. Nifty!

Good Magazine posted a story about “The Plant” today and summed up the status of the project to date:

“The building, which was purchased in July 2010, is currently undergoing renovations by a team of volunteers. The Plant plans to have five tenant spaces ready for lease by the end of this year and the renewable energy system running by next June. The building will be fully functional in 2016, creating 125 jobs in the neighborhood diverting more than 10,000 tons of food waste from landfills each year.”

Here’s a tidy summary of how the system will work:

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